Aarhus University Seal

AIAS Conference

Moral engines: Exploring the moral drives in human life

The conference is now over, and the AIAS and the organisers thank all invited speakers and participants for contributing to an excellent conference filled with discussion and new perspectives. 

See photos from the conference.

Conference description

In the course of the last decade or so, there has been a virtual explosion of anthropological literature which deals with morality and argues that morality should be considered a central dimension of human practice. The question of what fundamentally drives human beings to ethical reflection, to strive for moral perfection or the cultivation of particular virtues, however, most often remains unexplored in this literature. This question will be taken up for explicit discussion, creating a space for dialogue between representatives from anthropology, philosophy and the history of ideas: Is it care for the self (as e.g. in the Foucauldian sense)? Is it a care for others (as the classical works by e.g. Løgstrup and Levinas would have it)? May it be fear (e.g. fear of God or fear of social sanctions)? Or something else?

In short, the main issue of the 4 - 6 June 2014 Conference is to explore what may be termed the various moral engines in human life: At which levels are they to be localised - intersubjective, societal, individual? Do they differ from society to society, culture to culture, social setting to social setting, or are they universal?


Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (AIAS), Aarhus University, Buildings 1630-1632, Høegh-Guldbergs Gade 6B, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark. See location on a map.


You can now read all the abstracts of the talks given at the conference in the Abstract booklet here. The booklet as well as the programme is handed out to all conference participants in the Conference folder when you register 4 June at 12:00 at the conference venue.

International confirmed speakers

  • Jonathan Lear, Professor, Dep. of Philosophy, University of Chicago, USA.
  • James Laidlaw, Dep. of Archaeology and Anthropology, Fellow at King's College, University of Cambridge, UK.
  • Dorothée Legrand, Husserl Archives, École Normale Supérieure, Paris, France.
  • Francois Raffoul, Professor of Philosophy and French studies, Louisiana State University, USA.
  • Joel Robbins, Professor of Anthropology, Dep. of Archaeology and Anthropology, Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, UK.
  • Jason Throop, Los Angeles, Associate Professor, Dep. of Anthropology, University of California, USA.
  • Jarrett Zigon, Associate Professor, Dep. of Anthropology and Sociology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
  • Michael Lambek, Canada Research Chair, Dep. of Anthropology, University of Toronto Scarborough, Canada.
  • Michael D. Jackson, Distinguished Visiting Professor of World Religions, Harvard University, USA.

Local confirmed speakers

  • Cheryl Mattingly, Dale T. Mortensen fellow at Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies (AIAS), Aarhus University, Denmark and Professor of anthropology, University of Southern California, USA.
  • Uffe Juul Jensen, Professor of Philosophy, Dep. of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark.
  • Lotte Meinert, Professor with Special Responsibilities at Anthropology, Dep. of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark.
  • Maria Louw, Associate Professor in Anthropology, Dep. of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark.
  • Thomas Schwarz Wentzer, Associate Professor, Philosophy and the History of Ideas, Dep. of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark.
  • Rasmus Dyring, PhD Fellow, Philosophy, Dep. of Culture and Society, Aarhus University, Denmark.

Time schedule, programme and abstracts

  • Wednesday 4 June
    12:00-19:00 (no lunch included here, but food is served at the Welcome reception)
  • Thursday 5 June
  • Friday 6 June

Programme of the conference.

Abstract booklet of the conference

Post-conference workshop on 10 June

A post-conference workshop is held on 10 June 2014 from 9:00-14:00 at AIAS and is directed mainly at junior researchers: PhDs, postdocs or other interested scholars. At the workshop each presenter is granted a 30 min timeslot, and papers given at the workshop should not exceed 25 min, leaving time for discussion. The paper is expected to respond to the questions raised in the conference abstract and, since the workshop is also interdisciplinary, it should be written with an interdisciplinary audience in mind.

PhD students are given 3 ECTS points for participating in the workshop.

Read the call for papers and the description of the workshop.

Read the article about the post-conference workshop.

The Call for papers to the post-conference workshop closed on 9 March 2014.